Fighting the war in Iran
OxBlog has an interesting post about the administration's ongoing reaction to the current unrest in Iran. Apparently they're using subversive programming (over the Voice of America channels) which doesn't directly confront the regime; instead, it shows the Iranian watchers how life is different (and hopefully, more attractive) in a free country (specifically the U.S.) than it is under a theocratic regime. They don't seem to have many viewers yet (no official numbers), but that seems to be an issue of reception rather than desire (the NYTimes article referenced quotes an Iranian fellow who says they listen to the channel over the radio since they can't get it on TV). Money quotes:
The show carefully avoids direct criticism of Iran's Islamic regime; its style is subtly subversive.
A recent entertainment segment, for instance, profiled the Cuban jazz trumpeter Arturo Sandoval, who did not have a word to say about Iran or Iranians but talked movingly about fleeing a repressive regime for political and artistic freedom. The interview with Jay Leno focused on using comedy to criticize politics.
Another segment showed Iranian students at the University of Maryland enjoying Mehregan, a traditional Persian fall festival, without mentioning directly what viewers in Iran already know: that this secular holiday's celebration is discouraged by the country's religious leaders.
A regular feature called "A Day in the Life" uses a reality television approach to showcase ordinary Iranian 20-somethings living in the United States. As the jumpy camera followed Anahita Sami, a 20-year-old student, and her friends around the campus of George Washington University, she chatted about dorm life, exams, being away from home for the first time, nothing particularly exciting. But the point is made: Yeah, she can wear those clothes, say those things and do that stuff.
This is a good thing, I think. In some countries, we may not have any choice but to use force (Afghanistan and, IMO, Iraq)—some countries have such a tight grip on their populace and/or are so dangerous that time is too short. But in many other countries, like Syria, Saudi Arabia, Iran, etc, I think this is a great tactic.